Monday, January 31, 2011

This is not a Patagonia ad...

...but it really could be. They're just that awesome, Patagonia, that they inspire me to write about them unpaid. (Not that I'm one to shy away from writing things no one asked for.) Of course I refer to Patagonia, the company, not Patagonia, the region which I really, really, really want to visit. For the weekend of January 29-30, I had to settle for the high wind-swept mountains of Korea.

Brian and I got our first taste of Korea skiing at the High1 Resort. It's a pretty new place, in Gangwon province (north of us), sort of near Taebaek. The mountains were beautiful and our hotel was nice, kind of an Overlook-hotel type feel, minus the murderous Jack Nicholson character - and our staff all seemed to be fully alive. The resort, which includes several hotels and mountain condos and whatnot along its windy roads, is pretty new (new enough to not even be mentioned in my 2004-05 edition of Lonely Planet Korea), and government dollars have helped build it. Gangwon Province used to be all about the mining, but now there's not so much mining, so they're all, "I know! Tourism!" Lo and behold.

Well, I'll tell you what, it was COLD up in them thar hills. I love me some skiing, but frigid winds whipping at your pummeled face and even the occasional ski-lift sway are another story. My toes and one or two fingers refused to stay warm, despite their layers. I totally had to tuck inside the mid-mountain hub building for an afternoon churro snack. Yes, you read that right: churro! I was only too delighted to see that is what High1 Resort decided would be the perfect mid-ski pick-me-up.

But here's the thing: even when I was freezing, and every part of me felt the fierce icy air, my arms and upper body did not. Why? Because thanks to Patagonia, I own the warmest shirt in the world. I totally bought it from their website on sale - was it clearance? I should hope not! - the other year, to have something warm to run in. I bought two of their Capilene long-sleeved outdoor sports shirts in fact - one Capilene level 4 and one Capilene level 3. I promptly discovered that I could go running in the Michigan or Chicago winter with only the Capilene 4 shirt for my top half layer. (Hat, gloves, etc. of course ... but no additional shirt layer needed for the run.) I'm telling you, it's the warmest shirt in the world. The even lighter Capilene 3 shirt is good for cool days, rainy runs, and not-quite-the-coldest-day-in-the-world runs. I adore both shirts and can't think of a better purchase I've made recently. I was reminded yet again on the ski lift, while every part of me felt the cold except the part that was covered by the warmest shirt in the world.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tomorrow's the big day!

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it's Oscar nominations time! Tomorrow! Oh boy! And I have watched only three films this month. Boo hoo is right. This is a result of my being in Korea and being unable to run out and watch 2 or 3 movies (in English) every week. The three films I did watch this month were Eat Pray Love (love it!), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (liked it, I think because I never watch any HP so everything was interesting to me but old hat for everyone else), and The Green Zone (I freaking loved this movie and highly, enthusiastically recommend it to everyone right now!)

So. Oscars. The big contenders that I need to see are True Grit, Blue Valentine, Another Year, Rabbit Hole and Toy Story 3. Nor have I seen Biutiful or Conviction, which may well give us some acting nods. Overall, though, I had a good November-December of movie watching and think I am poised to be over 50% when the nominations come out tomorrow.

My story, to which I am sticking, is that 127 Hours is the best film of the year, along with Inception. If either misses out on one of the TEN Best Pic nods I will be incredibly frustrated. It is sort of depressing to see how many people have foregone-concluded that it is between The Social Network and The King's Speech for what will actually win. I want to see a 127 Hours surprise! That said, I liked TSN and TKS a lot. The King's Speech is more than another British piece with people flouncing around to get Academy attention, really. It is dynamic, funny, touching, and an interesting history lesson/thoughtful look at humanity. It was amazing to me what Helena Bonham Carter can do with, like, five seconds of screen time, by the way. As for Black Swan? Sigh. It was entertaining, but it was just so...self-aware. I tend to hate that in everyone-loves-me Oscar contenders.

Actress-wise, I am loving the whole BAFTA thing, that is to say, the whole putting-Hailee-Steinfeld-from True Grit in the LEAD actress category. Every year, people. Every year some actress' performance is called supporting when it's clearly not. Some years, though, the Academy (and other Award-giving bodies) get it right and make that actress a Lead Actress nominee in spite of a Supporting Actress campaign. (See also: Kate Winslet, The Reader) I love it. Since I haven't seen the movie, I can't comment on her over Jennifer Lawrence, whom I did like in Winter's Bone. Nor have I seen Noomi Rapace in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Men Who Hate Women. But I can say this: we do not need to nominate Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right. Annette Bening should win (yes, win) (yes, over Natalie Portman's swan) for TKAAR and that's all we need for that.

I thought Christian Bale's performance in The Fighter was one of the most marvelous things I've seen in quite some time. He'll get a nomination, for sure.

I don't really have any surprise predictions or secret thoughts on what's in store...I would like to see an editing nomination for 127 Hours...and Jeremy Renner was the best thing about The Town, in my opinion. It would be pretty bad-ass if Hye-ja Kim, the Korean star of Mother - which we watched at the fantastic cinema across the street from us in Chicago - gets an actress nomination! But I'm not counting on that. Jacki Weaver for supporting in Animal Kingdom is a more likely foreign-actress-in-a-movie-United-Statesians-never-heard-of-much-less-saw bet.

Oh boy! Oh boy! I'll be back tomorrow or the day after to talk about the big announcement!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Why Don't Mexicans Learn English?"

This is so amazingly awesome that I am going to paste below in addition to providing the link at least twice.

The question was asked:

"Why don't Mexicans have enough gratitude for America to learn to speak English? Are they too stupid? Too lazy? What — they can't learn two or three words a day? Is this asking too much?"
-- Took Four Years of Spanish in High School

The U.S. government shares your concerns. Its Dillingham Commission released a 42-volume study on the waves of immigrants that concluded, "The new immigration as a class is far less intelligent than the old . . . Generally speaking, they are actuated in coming by different ideals, for the old immigration came to be a part of the country, while the new, in a large measure, comes with the intention of profiting, in a pecuniary way, by the superior advantages of the new world and then returning to the old country." The Dillingham report went on to fault the new immigrants for their lack of assimilation and English skills, constantly contrasting them with earlier generations of immigrants, and urged clampdowns on immigration. Sound familiar? That's because the Dillingham report appeared in 1911, and the inassimilable masses at the time were eastern and northern Europeans. The Dillingham Commission proves that the time-honored conservative anecdote that earlier generations of immigrants walked off the boats, chopped down their multisyllabic surnames and learned English immediately is bull-pinche-shit. American racism is a carousel — and here we are again.

The above is from the Phoenix New Times column "Ask a Mexican" by Gustavo Arellano.

Of course, those of us who went to law school and studied/worked in immigration law already know that those mythical fully assimilated previous generations of immigrants never actually existed. But I'm sure the assimilation myth will continue to be screamed from the rooftops by angry Americans. I wish those Angry 'Mericans would read, for example, Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America wherein they could learn, as I did, about how very entitled Mexicans are to the land of the Southwest United States, and how very NOT entitled Polk et. al. were to it when they marched in and took it.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Yearage

Howdy do, blogosphere!

Well, would you look at that. 2011.

You'll never guess where I am...well, actually you might. But that's not the point of this entry, so we'll leave that for another day. (I'm still somewhere in the northern hemisphere, as the above language notes.) The point of this entry is to think about New Year's resolutions. Usually I am really into them, and this year I was so busy and consumed with getting ready for my big New Year's adventure that I never even thought about resolutions - seriously, me, didn't get around to thinking about them - until the night of December 31st. Someone brought it up and I was all oh, yeah - well, if I get on a plane and fly around the world on January 1st does that obviate the need to make a resolution or two?

Of course it doesn't! It just delayed the resolving. Now that I have time to think again, I find my brain turning to resolutions (partly because now that I have time to think again I am catching up on a dozen or so blogs that are all talking about end-of-year and new-year stuff). I think one of my resolutions is about not being angry. Being outraged, in an "if-you're-not-outraged-you're-not-paying-attention" sense is still OK, but anger is different. The thing is, I'm actually not really angry, ever. Hardly at all. But people think I am, sometimes, when I'm not. I find my brain thinking about some kind of resolution for that.

Related to not making people think I am angry, incorrectly, I have also been thinking about etiquette and charm. Part of me actually would like to go to a full-on Southern belle charm school. Another part of me prefers my more Western, renegade outlook on life. But lately I have been thinking about that distinctly Southern talent of telling people basically to go !@$%* themselves while all the while being so sweet and proper and polite that you never stray from proper decorum. I really want that talent. A little while back, during a social gathering a person I know broke into a conversation between me and two other people, because that first person had heard the rest of us talking passionately about a world news issue, and told us to stop talking about politics. Naturally my response was that we all clearly saw no reason to stop talking about politics. The person continued to press the point that there was "nothing we could do about it anyway" (which is not actually true, of course) and also, that I am in the wrong for "trying to convince people" I am right. (Amusing on several levels, that.) In a few minutes, the person left, one of the people from the conversation said, "I don't care if you talk about politics," and the evening went merrily on. But I was left thinking about what I would have said IF I had that distinctly Southern belle sugar-slopping talent that I don't have. It's interesting to ponder.

Anyway, none of this is quantifiable whatsoever, and there have to be some quantifiable resolutions, so I'm toying with simple increase: to read more books, and to travel to more countries, than I did in 2010. I think those just might be my resolutions.